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Chapter 1

Psychology 2310A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Antisocial Personality Disorder, Mass Hysteria, Conversion Disorder

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Rod Martin

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Chapter 1
Concepts of Abnormality throughout History
Eccentric and unusual behaviour or beliefs are not necessarily abnormal according to diagnostic
criteria, although the boundary between eccentric and abnormal is not always clear
Behaviours that are repugnant and threatening to others, such as aggression and murder, are
not always signs of an underlying psychological disorder
Psychological abnormality refers to behaviour, speech, or thought that impairs the ability of a
person to function in a way that is generally expected of him or her, in the context where the
usual functioning occurs
Mental illness a term often used to convey the same meaning as psychological abnormality,
but it implies a medical rather than psychological cause
Psychological disorder a specific manifestation of this impairment of functioning, as described
by some set of criteria that have been established by a panel of experts
Psychopathology the scientific study of psychological abnormality and the problems faced by
people who suffer from such disorders
Attempts at defining Abnormality
Concept of abnormality changes over time and across cultures
Normal and abnormal are vague concepts
One criteria alone cannot be used
o Statistical concept behaviour is judged as abnormal if it occurs infrequently in the
o Personal distress many people who have a psychological disorder report being
distressed however many don’t as well (anti-social personality disorder; only causes
distress to others not themselves)
a frequent but not essential feature of abnormality
o personal dysfunction when behaviour clearly interferes with appropriate functioning
wakefield: harmful dysfunction is the key notion; dysfunction referring to
failures of internal mechanisms to perform naturally selected functions
to conclude that a behaviour is disordered requires both a scientific judgment
that there exists a failure of designed function and a value judgment that the
design failure harms the individual
o violation of norms behaviour and thoughts of many psychologically disordered
individuals run counter to what we might consider appropriate
how we define abnormality is culturally relative, abnormality is defined relative
to that culture’s norms which change over time
o diagnosis by an expert

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clinical psychologists study refers to understanding, diagnosis, and
amelioration of disorders of thinking and behaviour; trained to provide
psychological treatment
psychiatrists focuses on diagnosis and medical treatment; emphasizes the use
of pharmacological agents in managing mental disorders
psychiatric nurses work in a hospital setting where they manage day-to-day
care of mentally disordered patients
psychiatric social workers attend to influence of social environment of
disordered patients
occupational therapists focus on helping clients to improve their functional
performance; ex: community living skills
Szasz: idea of mental disorders was invented by psychiatry to give control to its practitioners to
the exclusion of other people such as clergymen
Historical Concepts of Abnormality
Our understanding of history ought to help us avoid errors of the past
When we examine the way in which societies in the past have viewed and treated abnormality,
we will see that their concepts are shaped by the prevailing views of the time concerning all
manner of phenomena
Supernatural causes causes beyond the understanding of ordinary mortals, such as influence
of gods, demons, or magic
o A society that explains everyday events as a result of these causes will view madness
o Psychological dysfunction in various historical periods was thought to result either from
possession by demons or the witchcraft of evil people
o Treatment: exorcism to rid evil spirits or other magical or spiritual means
o Evidence from prehistory:
Skulls have been found with circular sections cut out of them that were
supposed to let the evil out (trephination)
Alternate explanation is it was intended to remove bone splinters or blood clots
o Egyptians used supernatural explanations for abnormal behaviour
o Hunter-gatherer societies also look at mental disorders as supernatural
o Still occurs today, a man with schizophrenia in Africa was chained to a tree outside his
village for more than 10 years
Natural causes can be observed or examined
o Mental afflictions are Treated in ways that address the natural cause
Hippocrates was the father of modern medicine
o Rejected the notion of supernatural causes for mental illness
o Argued stress could influence mental functioning
o Dreams were important in understanding why someone was suffering from mental
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